Yesterday, I posted on Instagram asking for questions that you had about differentiation. The questions fell into two basic camps:
- How do you support struggling students and students with IEPs in a science classroom?
- How do you support students who aren’t being challenged by your regular curriculum?
This post is designed to help you with some ideas about how to differentiate your instruction for students that may need extra help. And I will just start by saying that your needs are very specific and there is no way that I can create a blog post that will support all of those needs. However, this is an excellent place to have a conversation. If you have a more specific question, please post it in the comments section below. (Be careful not to be too specific because you legally may not disclose details about a specific student.)
The most important thing to remember for students with IEPs is that you MUST provide accommodations that are listed on the accommodations page of the IEP. If you feel that the accommodations are no longer appropriate and are giving the student too much support you can call a meeting to discuss changes, but you may not decide on your own.
These are great strategies for any student who needs a little extra support. There isn’t any rule that states that you cannot provide accommodations to a student who hasn’t been identified as a special education student. These accommodations work well for English language learners or any student who is struggling with a concept. I have even used some of these strategies for students who are following concussion protocols. For non-special education students these can be used on an as needed basis.
So, here are my tips:
1. If the student is in special education, consult the accommodation page and have a conversation with their case manager. If the student continues to struggle, have the conversation again.
Provide all of the accommodations listed. These tend to vary based on who wrote the IEP, but there are several accommodations that tend to be in many IEPs (use of notes on tests, written notes provided ahead of time, check for understanding, etc). Other teachers are almost always your best resource. I have spoken with a few SPED teachers who have confided that no one ever really checks in with them. What a waste!
2. Provide copies of notes instead of making them take their own notes.
In my class we do Cornell style notes. If a student is having trouble keeping up with the notes for any reason, I provide them with a copy beforehand. This is easier if you use PowerPoint presentations because you can just print them, but I usually write notes directly into my interactive notebook.
Now, I wish I lived in a world where I was so ahead of schedule that I had my notes done so far in advance that I had time to take them to the copy room. That is almost never the case. I have a tiny scanner app on my phone so I usually take a picture of the notes and create a PDF with my cell phone and email them to my work computer where I print it at my desk. Thankfully I have a printer in my classroom.
3. Reduce the workload.
There are many ways that you can do this:
- Assign only odd number problems.
- Provide sentence frames for written work.
- Allow incomplete sentences, diagrams, etc.
- Provide other graphic organizers.
4. Use Google Apps and Other Technology
- Have students share documents with you, or make a copy for them yourself and share with them. This will help you reduce assignments for individuals, monitor progress, etc. This also allow students with some visual impairments enlarge the font. It helps students who cannot keep a paper to save their life a little more organized.
- Have students use the drawing feature to create visual responses.
- There are many google extensions that can be downloaded to help students. For example, the text to speech extensions are amazing.
- Take a picture using your phone when using microscopes. Send the picture to a student and have them label the image using google draw.
- Have students create an online interactive notebook using google drive.
5. Assign different levels of reading assignments.
- I use Newsela often in my classroom. I create groups by reading proficiency and print out articles and questions at various reading levels. The last article I used went up to 8th grade and down to 3rd.
6. Allow notes on tests or read the test out loud.
- I don’t give many tests anymore, but when I do, I allow students to use a 3 x 5 inch note card. If a student needs a little more help, I allow them another note card. Some students are allowed to use their entire notebook.
- For specialized classes for English Language Learners or particularly low classes, I read the entire test out loud.
So, like I said, that is just the start of this conversation. I will post about my strategies for helping your high achieving students soon.
Ask me your questions below and make sure to let me know what content or activities you are having trouble with. Also, please post your best strategies below.